10/14/2006

Md.: Two plead guilty to police shooting

Julie Bykowicz, Sun reporter
The Baltimore Sun
Copyright 2006 The Baltimore Sun Company
All Rights Reserved

The day he was shot three times, Officer Dante Hemingway was lured to a house in Westport with the promise of reuniting with a woman he'd met the night before.

But when he arrived, the plain-clothes Baltimore police officer, on duty but on his lunch break, was ambushed by a masked man with a gun who'd been recruited by the woman's jealous lesbian lover, court hearings revealed yesterday.

Jobrea Lodge, and Sherray Douglas, both 21, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit armed robbery. Lodge, the shooter, also pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree murder.

Lodge was sentenced to 20 years in prison; Douglas was sentenced to 12. Both can be paroled after serving half of their sentences, at which time they'll each be on five years of supervised probation.

"I think the state's offer was as attractive as it was so that the officer wouldn't have to take the stand," said Warren A. Brown, Douglas' attorney. "It would have been quite embarrassing for him."

The court hearings yesterday answered lingering questions about what led to the March 30 shooting that left Hemingway, then 28, in critical condition at Maryland Shock Trauma Center for about a month.

Hemingway was in court, dressed in a dark suit and looking healthy. He said afterward that he was satisfied with the plea deal but declined to answer questions. He has not returned to work, said Lt. Paul M. Blair Jr., president of the city police union.

Blair said he, too, was happy with the sentences and had not heard complaints from the rank and file.

"I would have liked more, sure. But at least they're going to jail for several years," he said, adding that he has a pessimistic view of the city's criminal justice system.

A Police Department spokesman did not return a call yesterday.

Michael E. Kaminkow, who represented Lodge, said "all kinds of considerations" led to what he and Brown acknowledged were generous plea deals for their clients.

Among the considerations, Kaminkow said, were credibility problems with the civilian witnesses, the fact that no one knew Hemingway was an officer and, perhaps most notably:

"This officer was some place he shouldn't have been," Kaminkow said.

Blair, former head of the vice unit for which Hemingway worked, disputed allegations that the officer went to the home for personal reasons. "He was the pure victim in this," Blair said. "He was in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Hemingway, who joined the Police Department in July 1999, was assigned in 2003 to the Organized Crime Division. He has received several commendations, including a lifesaving award for helping an officer who was shot in 2002.

He is a single father of two children.

Hemingway picked up a 25-year-old woman at a York Road bus stop March 29 and dropped her off at a house party in West Baltimore, Brown said.

Assistant State's Attorney Lisa Goldberg read into the court record an account that she said was based on interviews with witnesses.

Hemingway and the woman, who was not charged with a crime, exchanged numbers, Goldberg said.

After the party and into the next day, the woman and her "long-term" girlfriend, Douglas, had a lengthy argument about the woman's "contact with Hemingway," Goldberg said.

Then, using her girlfriend's cell phone and pretending to be her, Douglas called the officer and arranged a noon meeting at a home in the 2400 block of Wilgrey Court in a public housing complex in Westport, Goldberg said.

Douglas also called Lodge, a man she knew to have access to a gun, Goldberg said. Lodge is the half-brother of Jovan House, who was convicted with two other men in the 2002 shooting death of Detective Thomas G. Newman.

Urging one friend to "stick around and watch her in action," Douglas told several people she had set Hemingway up to be robbed at gunpoint, Goldberg said.

Hemingway arrived and was confronted by a masked man wearing sunglasses and pointing a gun at him, Goldberg said. Hemingway apparently reached for his service weapon and Lodge fired his gun, striking Hemingway three times in the upper body, Goldberg said.

Hemingway fired 14 shots, hitting Lodge once, in the left leg.

Douglas and Lodge fled separately on foot, Goldberg said. Police locked down much of Westport and found the injured Lodge on a rooftop.

Brown said his client's jealousy about Hemingway's interaction with her girlfriend "gave rise to an opportunity to make some money."

"She had a certain anger at this person for trying to make a move on her girlfriend," Brown said. "That left my client with little regard for the person, and it was easy to move to the next step, robbery."

Blair said the stories of the defense attorneys should carry no credence. He said Hemingway could have been working undercover that day - which is what the Police Department said immediately after the shooting, but then backed away from.

Unless Hemingway testifies that he went to Westport for personal reasons, Blair said, there is no proof that it's true.

With the plea deals yesterday, there will be no such testimony.

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